L S Lowry is know for his ‘matchstick men’ but there is so much more to him than meets the eye. Lowry suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome and lived with his parents until he was 52 years old. He led two very distinct lives; one as a rent collector which he did during the day and for 42 years, and one as an artist – he painted at night usually between 11.00pm and 2.30am.
His mother thought of him as a failure and often laughed at him, calling his paintings ugly, depressing and boring, yet he was devoted to her. He attended Manchester art school and the Salford art school for over twelve years in the evenings, before they eventually told him to leave because he was too old.
He began painting his industrial scenes in the late 1920’s but they met with little success until one of the tutors criticised them. Lowry was furious and when he asked what he should do to improve them was met with the answer, ‘that is for you to find out’. Lowry went home in a tantrum and came back with the roads and buildings painted white to which the tutor said, ‘that’s better.’
You will notice in all Lowry’s landscapes the roads are painted white and the buildings white or pale pastel colours, nothing like the dull grey’s of the reality. His work began to sell after an exhibition in London in 1939 brought him to the attention of the London art scene, he was aged 52.
Interestingly, if you look at the figures in Lowry’s paintings they are always in little groups, a lot is going on, but you always get the impression that Lowry is the distant observer. Apart from his devotion to his mother, he had no other relationships in his life. His work is actually much more interesting and sophisticated that it appears. He is an artist who observes the minutiae of life very intensely.